Coaches mending fences?
By Wes Nakama
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Wes Nakama
A perceived wall between the University of Hawai'i football program and national powerhouse Kahuku High School — whether real or imagined — disappeared at least momentarily Thursday night when UH coach June Jones made a surprise appearance at a testimonial for retired Kahuku coach Siuaki Livai.
Livai, who guided the Red Raiders to four of the past six state championships, resigned March 27 after 10 mostly successful seasons. One lowlight came in February 2005, when Jones said Kahuku "directed" its top college prospects away from Hawai'i.
Livai strongly denied that claim, and media coverage of the spat resulted in some tension between the programs.
But Thursday in La'ie, Jones showed up at Livai's party at the invitation of UH offensive lineman Tala Esera's family, which helped organize the event. Jones was even presented with a Kahuku jersey with his name on the back, gave a short talk at the podium and shook hands with Livai in a quick embrace, according to a person in attendance.
"Tala and (Hawai'i safety) Leonard (Peters) asked me to go, so I went," Jones said Friday. "I had a good time. The people of Kahuku have always been good to me and our program. I have nothing but good feelings about them."
Asked about the past accusation about Livai steering athletes away from UH, Jones said, "Nothing's changed."
But, he added: "He's a great coach, and they do a good job."
Speaking of the school, but not Livai, Jones said, "Kahuku has been helpful in sending us great players."
Livai, meanwhile, maintains he and his staff have always been Hawai'i fans and they want the Warriors to succeed.
"We've always had players there, so we always cheer for UH," Livai said Friday night. "Hawai'i is us, really. If Hawai'i has a good team, then it means something if we win the state championship. If people on the Mainland don't respect Hawai'i football, then if we win the state title, they'll say, 'So what? It's just Hawai'i ...' So, (UH's) success is our success."
Livai added he has strong relationships with Hawai'i assistant coaches Dan Morrison and Rich Miano.
"Dan and I are always talking to each other, and Rich has been helpful to us," Livai said. "It's not like we don't help each other out, and (the supposed feud) is not like how it sounds, anyway. So it's good that (Jones) came. I'm happy he came — it was nice."
Jones reportedly is expected to meet with new Kahuku coach Reggie Torres in the next couple weeks to strengthen the relationship between the schools.Staff writer Stephen Tsai contributed to this story.
Reach Wes Nakama at email@example.com.